OPPAI VOLLEYBALL Production Notes
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details and images from a Japanese movie not yet released in the United States.
“If we win the competition, our teacher will show us her boobs?!”
1979, Kitakyushu. Shortly after accepting her new junior high school teaching position, Mikako, who has become advisor to the inept boys of the volleyball team, makes an extraordinary promise to show them her boobs (Oppai) if they win a game. Mikako has mixed feelings about the boob promise, but the members wholeheartedly want to see her boobs and practice with feverish intensity, gaining strength as if they had become different people. What fate befalls Mikako in the face of this conflict?!
With a title like this, can it be a true story?!
The immensely popular novel of youth has become an inspiring movie.
With a title like OPPAI VOLLEYBALL (おっぱいバレー, Oppai Baree, 2009), it seems that this must be fiction, but in fact it is based on a true story. The novel was written by Munenori Mizuno, a screenwriter. When first published, the title of this surprisingly moving novel led to it receiving an extraordinary amount of support from readers, and a strong desire to see it adapted to film. The time period and setting were changed for the film, but the spirit of the deeply moving original remains the same. The foolish but lovable pubescent boys of the junior high school are obsessed with boobs, and are portrayed in a very refreshing manner. The story takes on the new form of the personal growth of Mikako and the boys as they pursue their shared objective with absolute fervor. We gradually become enthralled with this powerfully charming endeavor in the springtime of youth. This is a wonderful expression of the timeless and universal experience of youth, fully realized in this entertaining film.
Director Eiichiro Hasumi has established his reputation with the direct intensity of masculine dreams and friendships in films such as the UMIZARU series, THE ALL-OUT NINE, and SEASON OF SNOW. It’s the first time he’s taken on the challenge of working with a female lead. The director’s depiction of the protagonist, Mikako, who is a bit awkward but always earnest in everything she does, is very similar to his past portrayals to date. Hasumi states that both genders and all ages have experienced this time of youth, and has created a heroine that truly evokes a sense of this in all of us.
The character of Mikako is played by the very popular Haruka Ayase, who played in CYBORG SHE and ICHI in 2008. This is her first collaboration with Director Hasumi. She gives an enthusiastic performance in the role of a teacher who has lost confidence as the result of a certain incident, and struggles to regain that confidence in her new job at a junior high school. Everyone will fall in love with her comedic playing of the woman with the nice boobs. The gifted and versatile supporting cast includes Munetaka Aoki, Toru Nakamura, Ken Mitsuishi, Takuya Ishida, and Suzuka Ohgo. These idiosyncratic junior high school boys yearning for the boobs of Haruka Ayase are played to perfection by the six young actors selected during audition.
1979, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture. Mikako Terajima has accepted a temporary placement as the new teacher at the Tobata Third Junior High School. Her own encounter with a certain teacher while still a junior high school student led her to a decision to be a Japanese teacher. But a certain incident at her previous school resulted in the students losing trust in her, and her losing confidence in herself.
Wanting to make a fresh start, she enthusiastically became advisor to the boys’ volleyball team, but finds that the five of them can’t think about anything but girls. What’s more, they have no interest in playing, and haven’t even touched a volleyball! They get excited by talk about erotic fantasies, and spend their days doing the same idiotic things over and over. They’re called “Follyball Team” by school mates, and the team is on the verge of falling apart. To somehow try to get them to try harder, Mikako says to them, “I’ll do anything for you if you make an effort!” The situation takes an unexpected turn when these male students demand, “OK, if we win a game you have to show us your boobs!” At first she refuses, but when the students accuse her of being a liar… she reluctantly agrees to their conditions.
The prospect of seeing her lovely boobs inspires the students so much that they throw themselves into volleyball practice as if they had become different people. In response, Mikako learns how to be a good volleyball instructor, and really makes them work hard in practice. But Mikako is struggling with complicated feelings about the situation. “I don’t want to show them my boobs!” but “I want to teach them about the pleasure of victory!” During this time, an increasingly trusting relationship develops between Mikako and the students, who are trying so hard. At the same time, her self-confidence as a teacher is returning.
But as the day of the competition nears, the “boob promise” becomes known throughout the school and a huge problem ensues. What is this teacher up to with these students?! If they win, will they actually get to see her boobs…?!
The ‘three conditions’ needed for film adaptation.
The title Oppai Volleyball conjures up images of the unique realm of innocence evoked so fully in this story of youth. But if the film adaptation of this is not done exactly right, there is a risk that the resulting film might end up being slightly offensive. Toru Horibe, the producer at the production company, ROBOT, was aware of this and established three conditions that had to be met before a film version could begin.
The first is that the director should be “crazy about boobs, but able to make a general audience feature,” the second is that the female lead “being wholesome and well-received by women, but having attractive boobs,” and the third is that there be a “female producer to rein in the boob fantasies of the male (including the director).”
Because of these requirements, the film adaptation was particularly difficult.
In fact, these three absurd conditions make the production seem so unlikely that the project was shelved after six months. The people associated with the original novel very much wanted to see the film made, but were told the disappointing news. But just after this, a truly remarkable thing happened. Having just seen those dejected people off, the producer Horibe still had a copy of the novel on his desk, which a certain director happened to see. Without even reading the contents, he suddenly exclaimed “I want to make this film!”
That 43 year-old male director is Eiichiro Hasumi, well-known for youth films. He was totally enamored with the remarkable title of this book, and fervently requested that the project be taken off the shelf. He then proceeded to read the entire book on the spot in Horibe’s office! He repeated that “I really want to make this! I’ve thought of the perfect approach!” to officially announce his sincere intention to proceed.
At the same time, new information was received from the book side. Just after sales had commenced, someone emerged who was enthralled by it and wanted to produce it. Amazingly, it was a female producer at the same production company, ROBOT, and she had approached the writer of the original work about this! With this, two of the three conditions had suddenly been met! Only one condition remained. That was the question of “Who will play the role of the heroine?”
It would have to be an actress that made every male think “I want to see her boobs,” and furthermore she would need to appeal to females also. The producer, director, and everyone involved agreed without hesitation that only one woman play the role, “Haruka Ayase!”
But if she was not comfortable with the ‘boobs’ expression, it would be impossible for her to play the heroine, Mikako. Would she accept such a role?
Would the title alone be enough to make her reject it? As everyone involved fretted about this absurd notion, something small but amazing was realized. Haruka Ayase and the heroine, Mikako, were the same age! Haruka read the novel and stated that “The age 23 has a lot of significance to women, so I’m sure that I can make the role of the teacher, Mikako, really come alive.” She accepted the role.
All of producer Horibe’s ‘three conditions’ had now been met, and project planning got under way in earnest.
The intensive volleyball training of the ‘wholesome delinquents’ now begins!
The six members of the junior high volleyball team were chosen by audition, with the director deciding on the basis of the following points. “Must seem very delinquent,” “must have the pubescent charm of the characters in the novel,” and in short needed to express the innocent cuteness in regards to the boobs element. The actors who are as attractive and unique as the six characters in the novel were finally chosen.
Two months before filming commenced, they recruited the assistance of a former volleyball player, Motoko Obayashi, who had played for the All-Japan team. Under her guidance, the intensive volleyball training of the actors got under way. All six of them had no volleyball experience, so it was a real “Follyball Club” that was assembled! The director also made the contradictory request that they not become too skillful, and under Obayashi’s guidance and the effort of the six, they improved “moderately good”. With this film, the director aimed to have the development of the actors parallel the development of the movie characters, so the filming was done in chronological order to capture this. That objective was perfectly achieved, as the actors’ skill became better and better to the point that they could take on a college team for the competition climax of the film. The actors handle the ball so intensely that it seems almost like a documentary. Their efforts will definitely thrill the audience!
Filming begins in Kitakyushu, with “…boobs” being the catchword.
In July of 2008, filming of OPPAI VOLLEYBALL begins in Kitakyushu. It was a very hot summer. With the scorching sun beating down on them, the tough filming began in a closed elementary school that was made use of. Many days required that heavy winter clothing be worn, with the result that both cast and crew became fed up. To relieve the tension, the director made a rule that all phrases end with the catchword “…boobs!” such as ‘Helloboobs’ and ‘Good-byeboobs.’ This cheered them up, and they persevered until completion. In addition, the cast and crew lived together in Kitakyushu for about one month, and developed real camaraderie. Ayase had been unsure about what to say to the young actors at the beginning, but gradually developed a rapport with Munetaka Aoki and the others so that they enjoyed things such as volleyball games together, with the result that their interaction is like that of a real teacher with her students. That harmonious interaction of the location filming is apparent in the on-screen mood of the film.
THE WORLD OF OPPAI VOLLEYBALL
• Vying for film rights among more than 10 companies, the film adaptation is realized!
The novel (from Linda Publishers) was written by Munenori Mizuno, who is active as a screenwriter for TV and film. This moving novel of youth was based on a true story. The surprising title on the book cover immediately attracted attention soon after it was published in November 2006, the evocative image resonating with readers to attract many fans. And now, after more than 10 companies vying for film rights, a screen version has been made.
• In the 70s, ‘boobs’ inspired the imaginations of junior high boys!
Although the novel is not set in any particular time period, Director Hasumi has set the movie in 1979, a year with many memories for him. “Nowadays junior high boys can see lots of things on the Internet. But at that time, they were excited by late-night TV shows or men’s magazines they picked up from beside the road. So, the setting makes their fervent desire to see boobs more realistic.”
• The 70s music evokes memories of younger days.
Various hit songs from the 70s can be enjoyed throughout the movie. Those who grew up in the mid-70s will be particularly moved, but everyone will enjoy these hits coming one after another. The theme song “Kojin Jugyo” (Private Lesson) is by a collaboration unit of major artists. The music alone would be enough to make this a hit movie!
Filming in Kitakyushu
• The director finds a perfect location in the town of Kitakyushu.
Director Hasumi decided that he wanted “to film the kids actually developing, so they should apart from their parents,” and chose a rather remote area partly for this reason. He first visited the site used in the original novel, Mikkabi in Shizuoka Prefecture, but could not find a place that was evocative of the 70s. Kitakyushu had been recommended as an alternative choice. Hasumi found that it was exactly the way it was in the 70s! Upon seeing it, he immediately decided to film there. Furthermore, the Kitakyushu Film Commission was enthusiastic about the project, and the Board of Education offered an elementary school and a junior high school as filming locations. OPPAI VOLLEYBALL received total cooperation and support. This collaboration from the Board of Education was more than could have been dreamed of.
Haruka Ayase / ‘Mikako Terajima’
Mikako Terajima has been newly appointed as a teacher at the Tobata Third Junior High School, and advisor to the boys’ volleyball team. She has lost confidence as a teacher because of an incident at her previous school…
Haruka Ayase was born in 1985 in Hiroshima prefecture. She was spotlighted when she appeared in a TV drama CRYING OUT LOVE, IN THE CENTER OF THE WORLD. Since then, she took part in TV dramas such as HOTARU NO HIKARI- IT’S ONLY LITTLE LIGHT IN MY LIFE and THE FANTASTIC DEER-MAN, and became one of the most notable young actresses both in her popularity and ability. In 2008, she has played the leading part in films for the first time, and appeared in many titles such as CYBORG SHE, ICHI, THE MAGIC HOUR, and HAPPY FLIGHT. Her performance was well received, and she was awarded The New Actress Award of 32nd Fumiko Yamaji Awards and Best Actress of 21st Nikkan Sports Film Awards.
“I was a bit doubtful when I first heard the title OPPAI VOLLEYBALL,” Ayase recalled. “But I’ve gradually gotten used to the word ‘Oppai (boobs)’ [laughs] and come to think it’s a great story of youth. The ‘students’ were genuinely innocent, and were so cute when they cheered ‘Yeah, boobs!’ As for portraying Mikako, my manager said ‘She is just like you!’ At 23 I’m the same age as her, and can identify with both her uncertainty and zeal. I want to make her come alive as if she is a real person.”
Munetaka Aoki / ‘Kenji Horiuchi’
Kenji Horiuchi is a teaching colleague who is indebted to Mikako. He is uneasy that Mikako speaks to him as an equal colleague rather than as a respected mentor.
Munetaka Aoki was born in 1980 in Osaka. He became famous for playing a role in NHK drama CHIRITOTECHIN (2007-2008), and appeared in many of Director Hasumi’s works such as UMIZARU series (TV drama and 2 films), THE ALL-OUT NINE (2004), and SEASON OF SNOW (2008). COUNTERFEIT, directed by Yuichi Kimura, was released in 2009.
Hiromasa Taguchi plays the Ryuo Junior High School volleyball team coach. This tyrant is the coach of the team that the six will compete against.
Taguchi was born in 1967, Fukuoka prefecture. After organizing the comic duo Tension, he made his debut with a film FANCY DANCE (1989) as an actor. His works are; I JUST DIDN’T DO IT (2007), THE GLORIOUS TEAM BATISTA (2008), CYBORG SHE (2008), MIRAI KOUSHI MEGURU (TV drama, 2008), KEISHI-CHO SOUSA-IKKA 9-GAKARI (TV drama, 2008), and KAMI NO SHIZUKA (TV drama, 2009).
Toru Nakamura / Kazuki Jo
Kazuki Jo is the father of Yoshiki, a volleyball director. He advises Mikako and watches over the volleyball team.
Toru Nakamura was born in Tokyo in 1965. In 1985, he became popular with a film BE-BOP-HIGHSCHOOL in which he made his debut as an actor. His recent films are LOST MEMORIES (2003), UMINEKO (2004), THE KISS (2008), and K-20: LEGEND OF THE MASK (2008). A new film TSURUGIDAKE: SATSUEI NO KI was released in June 2009. He has worked with Director Hasumi when he played a role in a TV drama UMIZARU (2005).
Yoshie Ichige plays the teacher that Mikako so respected during her junior high days, and is the wife of Harada. She tells something important to Mikako, who is visiting a grave.
Ichige was born in 1950, Shizuoka prefecture. She made her debut as an actress in 1971. Her works are ONE STEP ON A MINE, IT’S ALL OVER (1992), BERUNA NO SHIPPO (2006), TSUBAKIYAMA KACHO NO NANOKAKAN (2006), BOMB BEE MEN (TV drama, 2008), and MY SASSY GIRL (TV drama, 2008).
Ken Mitsuishi plays the Vice-Principal of Tobata Third Junior High School, who encouraged Mikako to become advisor to the pathetic boys’ volleyball team.
Mitsuishi was born in 1961, Fukuoka prefecture. He has participated in many films directed by famous Japanese directors. His recent works are EUREKA (2000), PACCIGI! (2005), I JUST DIDN’T DO IT (2007), GLASSES (2007), and more.
Takuya Ishida plays a senior to the volleyball team who teases Hirata and the others.
Ishida was born in 1987, Aichi prefecture. He has won Photogenic Award of 15th JUNON Super Boy Contest. In 2005, he made his debut with a film SEMISHIGURE. His works are YORU NO PICNIC (2006), GUMI CHOCOLATE PINE (2007), 700 DAYS OF BATTLE: US VS. THE POLICE (2008), ROOKIES (2009) and BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO (2009).
Suzuka Ohgo/ ‘young Mikako Terajima’
Suzuka Ohgo plays Mikako as a junior high student.
She was born in 1993, Kanagawa prefecture. In 2000, Ohgo made her debut on the stage as an actress. Since then, she has played roles in TV dramas such as DR. COTO’S CLINIC (2002), SEXY VOICE AND ROBO (2007), and more. Her films are YEAR ONE IN THE NORTH (2004), SAYURI (2005), INTO THE FARAWAY SKY (2007), and KAMUI (2009).
Seiji Fukushi plays Mikako’s ex-boyfriend.
Fukushi was born in 1983, Kanagawa prefecture. He made his debut in 2002. Since then, he has played in TV dramas such as the NHK drama JUNJI KIRARI, and NODAME CANTABILE. His films are CHIRUSOKU NO NATSU (2004), WARUBORO (2007), YOUR FRIENDS (2008), and more.
The Six Boys
Haruki Kimura / ‘Ikuo Hirata’
Ikuo Hirata seems rather childish, but has a quick mind. Captain, setter.
Haruki Kimura was born in 1995, Ibaraki prefecture. His works are MAOU (TV drama, 2008), AROUND 40: CHUMON NO OOI ONNATACHI (TV drama, 2008), TENSAI TEREBI-KUN-kun MAX (NHK TV program), and more.
Kento Takahashi / ‘Yasuo Kusunoki’
Yasuo Kusunoki wants to be the one to decide things. He is good at the back row attack.
Kento Takahashi wa born in 1993, Tokyo. His works are WONDERFUL LIFE (TV drama, 2004), SEITO SHOKUN! (TV drama, 2007), THE KING AND I (stage, 1999), OPERA: MASQUERADE (opera, 2002), and more. He has played the leading role in a film CHEST! (2008) for the first time.
Yoshihiro Tachibana / ‘Yoshiki Jo’
Yoshiki Jo is the only one on the team with experience, a skilled attacker. His father is the advisor to the volleyball team. He gradually starts to get influenced by the other five players…?!
Yoshihiro Tachibana was born in 1993, Nagano prefecture. He made his debut for the silver screen with this title.
Masaki Honjo / ‘Kengo Sugiura’
Kengo Sugiura is an influential boy with lots of erotic ‘knowledge’. His parents run an iron factory.
Masaki Honjo was born in 1993, Hokkaido. His credits include OUR TEXT BOOK (TV drama, 2007), I AM NIHONJIN (film, 2006), and more.
Ryuichiro Megumi / ‘Taku Eguchi’
Taku Eguchi is moody and chubby. His nickname is ‘Ebu’. He plays center.
Ryuichiro Megumi was born in 1994, Chiba prefecture. His works are are SCRAP TEACHER (TV drama, 2008), THE GODDESS OF EXAMS (TV drama, 2007), KITCHEN WARS (TV drama, 2006), and more.
Takuya Yoshihara / ‘Kohei Iwasaki’
Kohei Iwasaki seems rather timid, but is always cheerful.
Takuya Yoshihara was born in 1993, Kanagawa prefecture. His credits include KIRU -KILL- (film, 2008), BOKU NO OBAACHAN (film, 2008), THE GODDESS OF EXAMS (TV drama, 2007), and more.
Director Eiichiro Hasumi
Eiichiro Hasumi was born 1967, Chiba Prefecture. A member of the ROBOT Motion Picture Department, he has directed numerous TV dramas, and made his theatrical film directorial debut with UMIZARU in 2004. In 2005 he directed THE ALL-OUT NINE. His third work as director was LIMIT OF LOVE: UMIZARU 2 (2006), which became such a hit that it set a new record for a Japanese movie filmed on location. In 2008 he directed SEASON OF SNOW, his first original story, which attracted much attention. With his highly-evaluated ability to direct immensely entertaining films, this energetic director has risen to become one of present day Japan’s most significant directors.
“One of the primary charms of this movie is its catchy title. It has such impact that you immediately wonder ‘What’s going on here?!’”, Hasumi explained. “If you read the story in the novel, you’ll find that it is very well-written. It’s about the various adversities overcome by the members of a truly pathetic junior high school volleyball team as they make an all-out effort in the hopes of seeing their teacher’s boobs. It is both humorous and moving. This is the first time I’ve worked with Haruka Ayase, who has stated, ‘As a 23 year-old woman, I personally am at a crossroads, something I share with this character.’ She had similar feelings to Mikako, and was able to play her in a very natural way.”
Screenplay: Yoshikazu Okada
Yoshikazu Okada was born in 1959, Tokyo. He made his debut with HONG KONG KARA KITA ONNA in 1990. Since then, he wrote scripts for many TV dramas such as KANOJOTACHI NO JIDAI (1999) and NHK drama series CHURASAN (2001). For CHURASAN, he was awarded both Kuniko Mukouda Award and Sugako Hashida Screenplay Award. His works for films are HEAVEN CAN WAIT (2007) which is based on his first novel, Space Travelers (2000), and BE WITH YOU (2004). His recent works include the TV drama ZENI GEBA starring Kenichi Matsuyama.
Music: Naoki Sato
Naoki Sato was born in 1970, Chiba prefecture. After graduating Tokyo College of Music in 1993, he has worked in many fields such as films, TV dramas, commercials, and musical plays. His works are ORANGE DAYS (TV drama), UMIZARU (TV drama), CODE BLUE (TV drama), THE ALL-OUT NINE (film), and SIMSONS (film). For ALWAYS -SUNSET ON THIRD STREET- (film, 2005), he won the Best Music prize at 29th Japanese Academy Awards.
Original Story: Munenori Mizuno
Munenori Mizuno was born in 1972, Aichi prefecture. He has written plots for DORAEMON, YAGUCHI HITORI, ONE STEP as well as the screenplays for SHAKARIKI! (film / co-writer), RENAI HAKUSHO (film), and THE LETTER (film). Oppai Volleyball is his first novel.
Volleyball Supervisor: Motoko Ohbayashi
Motoko Ohbayashi was born in 1967, Tokyo. She was a member of the national team at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. In 1995, she joined Italian Serie A team Ancona, and became the first Japanese professional player. After playing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, she retired from volleyball a year later.
Cinematography: Hiromitsu Nishimura
Hiromitsu Nishimura worked with Director Hasumi with SEASON OF SNOW for the first time. His other works include CAFE DAIKANYAMA (2008).
Lighting: Akiyo Miyoshi
Akiyo Miyoshiwas born in 1971, Kanagawa prefecture. Credits include the TORA-SAN movie series, FREE & EASY 11 (2000), AMIDADO DAYORI (2002), UMIZARU (2004), LIMIT OF LOVE: UMIZARU 2 (2006), HAKASE NO AISHITA SUUSHIKI (2005), KOISURU TOMATO (2005), THE GRADUATES (2007), and more.
Sound Recording: Fumihiko Yanagiya
Fumihiko Yanagiya was born in 1967. Credits include LIMIT OF LOVE: UMIZARU 2 (2006), BIG BANG LOVE, JUVENILE A (2006), BUBBLE FICTION: BOOM OR BUST (2007), MAIKO HAAAAN!!! (2007), SEASON OF SNOW (2007), YATTERMAN (2009)
Production Design: Takeyuki Kitaya
Takeyuki Kitaya was born in 1955, Tokyo. Film credits include KOIBITO HA SNIPER (2004), THE ALL-OUT NINE (2005), POSTMAN (2008), and TABIDACHI -ASHORO YORI- (2009).
OPPAI VOLLEYBALL CREDITS
Directed by Eiichiro Hasumi
Original Story: Oppai Volleyball (Linda Publishers) by Munenori Mizuno
Scriptwriter: Yoshikazu Okada
Production： Toru Horikoshi, Ryuhei Chiba, Shuji Abe, Noriyasu Ueki, Shigeyuki Endo, Yoshitaki Hori, Shinichiro Nishigaki, Fumihiro Hirai
Executive Producers: Seiji Okuda, Kenichiro Hori
Co-Executive Producer: Naoki Sukanuma
Producer: Toru Horibe
Producers: Naoto Fujimura, Naomi Akashi
Co-Producer: Masahito Kokuta
Music: Naoki Sato
Theme Song: “Kojin Jugyo” by Caocao (avex trax)
Cinematography: Hiromitsu Nishimura (J.S.C)
Lighting: Akiyo Miyoshi
Sound Recording: Fumihiko Yanagiya
Production Designer: Takeyuki Kitaya
Distributions: Warner Bros. Pictures Japan / Toei
Production Companies: NTV / avex entertainment Inc. / ROBOT / Warner Bros. Pictures Japan / Toei / Horipro / YTV / Vap / STV・MMT・SDT・CTV・HTV・FBS
Running Time: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Japanese Theatrical Release: April 18th, 2009
2009 Okinawa International Movie Festival: Special Invitation (World Premiere)
2010 Nippon Connection: Nippon Cinema (European Premiere)
2009 Blue Ribbon Awards: Haruka Ayase (Best Actress)
2010 Japan Academy Prize: Haruka Ayase (Most Popular Actor)
Ⓒ ２００９ “Oppai Volleyball” Film Partners